Just coming back from Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum (GMF) – and on my way to Barcamp Cologne 3 – I’m in a little cafe in the middle of nowhere (sorry dotdean), where Cappuccino still tastes like early 90s cappuccino, and where laptop dwellers in cafes are still greeted with curious stares. It is, to be short, the opposite of GMF – a truly global, international, intercultural event, and a remarkable one at that.
Why the praise? It’s the people of course. I can hardly remember another conference where so many folks working on such courageous projects get together not to have themselves celebrated (like we occasionally do at all those web conferences), but to talk, on eye level, with each other, exchange ideas and experiences, and seemed to be humbled by each other’s presence. When I was sitting on the panel with four bloggers, activists and citizen journalists in the old German parliamentary buildings (full disclosure: I was invited as moderator by Deutsche Welle, paid gig), I couldn’t help but feeling awe in the face of what these folks pull off in their day-to-day lives. Who was on the panel? Nancy Watzman, investigative journalist, consultant to the Sunlight Foundation, and author of Political Party Time; Israel Yoroba who writes Le Blog de Yoro; Oliver Nyirugubara, Program Coordinator for Voices of Africa; and a blogger/activist from Iran who asked not to be named because it would put her under unnecessary risk.
These are the prototypical bloggers and activists we read and talk about all the time, the ones who fight within or from the outside for freedom of expression in the repressive regimes in their countries (or in one case: corruption in their not-so-repressive regime). These are folks who take real risks every day to do what they’re doing. And I can’t overstate how much that demands our respect and support.
The Global Media Forum will be on again next year. If you get the chance, don’t miss out. It’s inspiring, and impressive.